For the 15th time in a row, thousands of people protested against the ruler Lukashenko in Belarus. In Minsk, the police used stun grenades. According to human rights activists, there have been over 300 arrests.
Despite police violence, thousands of people protested peacefully against ruler Alexander Lukashenko for the 15th time in a row at a Sunday demonstration in Belarus. In the capital Minsk, people first gathered in their residential areas and then formed protest marches with the historic white-red-white flags.
The police began making arrests at the beginning of the unauthorized gatherings. Videos were circulated on the online services showing police officers beating protesters.
The Wesna Human Rights Center published the names of more than 300 people arrested that evening. There were around 1,000 arrests on each of the last two Sundays. In other cities too, people again called for Lukashenko’s resignation.
Large police force
The power apparatus drew hundreds of uniformed men from the Ministry of the Interior and the army in Minsk. Prisoner trucks, water cannons and other heavy equipment were ready. The large squares of the capital were cordoned off with metal bars, as can be seen in pictures on the Telegram news channel. Numerous underground stations have been closed to prevent crowds from gathering; the authorities also throttled the cell phone network.
“March against fascism”
This time the protesters’ action was officially announced as a “march against fascism”. The organizers responded to the latest insults from Lukashenko that they were fascists.
The opposition politician Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania, turned to the protest movement on the online Telegram service on Saturday evening and described the demonstration on Sunday as a further step on the way to a “free and just Belarus”. “You cannot turn a country into a prison if no one is afraid of the prison guards,” she wrote.
Tichanowskaja also wants the units of the Interior Ministry, including the special police OMON, to be declared “terrorist organizations” internationally. The initiative has been initiated, she said after meeting EU politicians. Criminal trials for crimes against humanity would also be prepared.
“Lukashenko will not engage in dialogue”
The political scientist Pavel Ussow does not assume that the political situation in Belarus will change quickly. “Lukashenko will not leave his post, which he has captured by force, until the New Year. He will not enter into any dialogue. The system will continue as it is currently acting – with terror, pressure, beatings and violence.”
Most of the demonstrators have been taking to the streets for months and demonstrating non-violently. Many raised their arms in the air today – not to surrender, but as a token of their peaceful protest.
With Information from Karin Bensch, ARD Studio Moscow